Genesis 30:31-43 gives a fascinating account of an agreement, a deception, and God’s sovereignty, and intervention in ensuring that justice was met, even when it may have seemed implausible.
The agreement was between Jacob and his uncle Laban. When Laban asked Jacob as to what he could give Jacob as wages for his service of tending to Laban’s cattle for over a decade, Jacob responded that Laban did not give him anything. Instead, he struck a deal with Laban that any speckled and spotted cattle, and any brown sheep, and spotted and speckled goats should be his wages (Genesis 30:33). Laban agreed to this (Genesis 30:34)
But the shrewd and cunning Laban, that very day, went out and removed all the male goats that were speckled and spotted, and all the female goats that were speckled and spotted or had white patches and all black sheep and gave them to his sons, who took them away, as far as a three day journey from where Jacob was. This was Laban’s deception, but the Bible records that Jacob stayed and cared for the rest of Laban’s flock (Genesis 30:35,36).
Jacob then took some fresh branches from the green poplar, hazel (almond) and chestnut (plane) trees, peeling off strips of bark, making white streaks on them. He then placed these peeled branches in the watering troughs where the flocks came to drink and mate. When the flocks mated in front of the white-streaked branches, they gave birth to young one that were streaked, speckled, and spotted. Whenever the stronger females were ready to mate, Jacob would place the peeled branches in the watering troughs in front of them, but he did not do the same for he weaker ones and the stronger ones belonged to Jacob while the weaker ones belonged to Laban. Consequently, Jacob became exceedingly wealthy, with large flocks of sheep and goats, male and female servants and many camels and donkeys.
Laban tried to deceive Jacob, for in his mind, without streaked, speckled, and spotted – male and female goats, and – male and female sheep, the likelihood of progeny that is speckled or spotted or streaked would be impossible, failing to recognize that not only was his scientifically incorrect, but spiritually a deceiver (Genesis 31:7). From our current understanding of Genetics, we now know that scientifically, Laban was incorrect since the recessive genes are passed on to progeny even if the physical traits are not observed. In this case, the recessive genes that control the streaked, speckled, and spotted, color of goats and sheeps would have been present in the white, non-streaked, non-speckled, and non-spotted animals – a design that our Almighty God has so beautiful created – so that all of creation has the chance to continue and it is not only the dominant that are selected for the continuation of life, debunking Darwinian Natural Selection theory.
But what is more important to recognize is that while our current knowledge of Genetics (dominant and recessive traits), can be leveraged to explain how some of the progeny of parent goats and sheep that were not streaked, speckled or spotted were themselves streaked, speckled or spotted, we see from Jacob’s account that God intervened and protected Jacob from suffering on account of his deceiving uncle. Jacob tells his wife, that the angel of God spoke to Jacob in a dream and revealed to him that he would receive his rightful share of cattle, because of what Laban tried to deceive and cheat him (Genesis 31:11; 5-13).
Now what does the peeling of the bark of these tree to make them appear streaked, has to do in this account. Though it may seem as superstition, there has been scientific studies that demonstrate that some of children’s traits hinge upon what the parents eat. A study published in Molecular and Cellular Biology by Dr. Waterland and Duke’s Randy Jirtle showed that in a particular strain of mice, fortifying the pregnant and nursing mother’s diet with four nutrients shifted babies’ coat color from yellow to brown, and made the mice less obese. This was reported in the Dallas Morning news in 2003. Some Biblical scholars speculate that that the tree branches were to restrict and facilitate selective breeding of only the strong cattle to produce speckled and spotted progeny.
Points to ponder:
Leaving all conjectures and speculations aside, through eyes of faith, we can see that God is sovereign and just and he prevails even when, what we with our limited understanding may find implausible and impossible. God’s master design is such that it is non-contradictory. When we are faithful in our service to God and people, despite man’s attempt to deceive, God will be on our side for he is just. It is God who gives the increase and not man. It is God’s selection and not natural selection, that prevails ultimately and that is the truth, no kid-ding.
Genesis 30:31-43 (KJV)
31 And he said, What shall I give thee? And Jacob said, Thou shalt not give me any thing: if thou wilt do this thing for me, I will again feed and keep thy flock.
32 I will pass through all thy flock to day, removing from thence all the speckled and spotted cattle, and all the brown cattle among the sheep, and the spotted and speckled among the goats: and of such shall be my hire.
33 So shall my righteousness answer for me in time to come, when it shall come for my hire before thy face: every one that is not speckled and spotted among the goats, and brown among the sheep, that shall be counted stolen with me.
34 And Laban said, Behold, I would it might be according to thy word.
35 And he removed that day the he goats that were ringstraked and spotted, and all the she goats that were speckled and spotted, and every one that had some white in it, and all the brown among the sheep, and gave them into the hand of his sons.
36 And he set three days’ journey betwixt himself and Jacob: and Jacob fed the rest of Laban’s flocks.
37 And Jacob took him rods of green poplar, and of the hazel and chesnut tree; and pilled white strakes in them, and made the white appear which was in the rods.
38 And he set the rods which he had pilled before the flocks in the gutters in the watering troughs when the flocks came to drink, that they should conceive when they came to drink.
39 And the flocks conceived before the rods, and brought forth cattle ringstraked, speckled, and spotted.
40 And Jacob did separate the lambs, and set the faces of the flocks toward the ringstraked, and all the brown in the flock of Laban; and he put his own flocks by themselves, and put them not unto Laban’s cattle.
41 And it came to pass, whensoever the stronger cattle did conceive, that Jacob laid the rods before the eyes of the cattle in the gutters, that they might conceive among the rods.
42 But when the cattle were feeble, he put them not in: so the feebler were Laban’s, and the stronger Jacob’s.
43 And the man increased exceedingly, and had much cattle, and maidservants, and menservants, and camels, and asses.